Cherokee Nation Plans Construction on New Muskogee Health Center
Sound Clip from Chief SmithCherokee Nation officials and area representatives break ground on the new Cherokee Nation Muskogee Health Center. The 101,000 square-foot facility is a partnership between the Cherokee Nation and Indian Health Services. Pictured are: Chris Walker, Sr. Advisor to the Director, Indian Health Services; Joe Crittenden, Cherokee Nation Tribal Council; John Daugherty, Area Director, Oklahoma IHS; Melissa Gower, Cherokee Nation Health Services Group Leader; Dr. Gloria Grim, Cherokee Nation Medical Director; Rhonda Cochran, Director, Cherokee Nation Muskogee Clinic; Wren Stratton, Mayor of Muskogee; Gene Wallace, Muskogee County Commissioner; Chad Smith, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief; Bobbie Gail Smith; Joe Grayson, Jr., Cherokee Nation Deputy Principal Chief; Don Garvin, Cherokee Nation Tribal Council; Meredith Frailey, Cherokee Nation Tribal Council; Audra Smoke-Conner, Cherokee Nation Tribal Council, and Joe Haley.
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation broke ground Tuesday on a new three-story, 101,000-square-foot health clinic in Muskogee.
The health center will be a joint venture between the Cherokee Nation and the Indian Health Service (IHS).
Total construction costs, the responsibility of the Cherokee Nation, are expected to be close to $23 million, with operational costs of approximately $17 million per year provided by Indian Health Services. The new center is designed to reduce the burden on other IHS facilities, primarily W.W. Hastings Indian Medical Center in Tahlequah, the Claremore Indian Hospital and Cherokee Nation’s Redbird Smith Clinic in Sallisaw.
“This is a great day. For us it’s not only the opening of a new clinic to celebrate, it’s the example of partnership and leadership,” said Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. “None of this could have happened without the City of Muskogee, the IHS, our Council and our administration all working together. It’s a great time to celebrate healthcare, a great time to celebrate the clinic, and it’s a really great time to celebrate what partnerships and leadership can accomplish.”
Currently, the Cherokee Nation Muskogee Clinic serves only women and children. The new Muskogee Health Center will provide services to men as well as offer a wide range of new outpatient medical services, including family medicine, dental and optometry services, and a pharmacy. In addition, the clinic will also provide x-ray, physical therapy and behavioral health services.
Cherokee Nation construction projects are meeting and exceeding federal building requirements while consistently staying below average construction costs. The construction projects average more than 90 percent of their subcontracts with certified vendors through the Tribal Employment Rights Office (TERO).
District 4 Tribal Counselor Don Garvin, whose district houses the Muskogee Health Center, said the new facility will be a big improvement for Cherokee Nation citizens and other Native Americans in the area.
“We are very blessed to have this site, this district, selected for our health center,” said Garvin, “It is going to do a tremendous job of making people well.”
Smith credited the Cherokee Nation’s Washington office, led by Casey Ross-Petherick, for helping the Cherokee Nation’s Health Services staff work out the agreement with IHS.
“Many members of the Tribal Council helped us in Washington, D.C., and locally to make this happen,” Smith said. “Special credit has to go to Don Garvin, who has represented Muskogee so well on the Council and wouldn’t take no for an answer through all the years we have worked to get this health center.”
Melissa Gower, group leader for Cherokee Nation’s Health Services, said she hopes construction can begin the first of May.
“We’ve been working on the construction of a Muskogee facility since the construction of Hastings Hospital. You know that’s at least 25 years ago,” Gower said. “So this is a historic day for us.”
“This will be the largest Indian outpatient facility in Oklahoma,” said Dr. Gloria Grim, medical director of Cherokee Nation Health Services.
Senior Advisor to the Director of Indian Health Services Chris Walker said the new facility will be a great benefit in many ways to the people in the area.
“Words cannot express what this facility means to the delivery of healthcare to Native Americans, especially those of us in the Cherokee Nation,” said Walker.
The current Muskogee clinic is located on North York Street and sees an average of 1,800 women and children per month.
Among guests at the groundbreaking ceremony were representatives of the Choctaw, Creek and Navajo Nations, the Muskogee County Commissioners, Muskogee Mayor Wren Stratton, members of the Muskogee Chamber of Commerce and the American Indian Chamber of Commerce, and the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council, as well as the designer and planner of the building itself.
For more information, contact the Muskogee clinic at (918) 687-0201.